Health Care

As Medicare open enrollment nears, Cigna Corp. can’t sign up new members


Eight months after federal regulators sanctioned Cigna Corporation for endangering the health of its Medicare members, the health insurance company, which does business in Miami-Dade County as Leon Medical Centers Health Plans, will remain barred from enrolling new clients and marketing its services during the annual Medicare enrollment period that begins in October, according to a recent filing.

The Connecticut-based insurer told the Securities and Exchange Commission that over the next several weeks the company expects to discuss with investors the federal sanctions imposed in January after an audit found “widespread and systematic failures” that prevented Medicare private plan members from accessing medical care and prescription drugs.

However, Cigna executives told the SEC, they did not expect the sanctions to be lifted in time for the 2017 Medicare Advantage and Part D enrollment period that runs from October through December 7.

That means the company won’t be able to enroll any new members in the most popular Medicare private plan in Miami-Dade, Leon Medical Centers Health Plans, which is owned by HealthSpring of Florida, a Cigna subsidiary.

As of August, HealthSpring had 42,601 customers in its Miami-Dade Medicare plan. Its closest competitor in the county is Humana Medical Plan, which had 42,299 members in August. Both represent a fraction of the more than 281,000 people enrolled in private Medicare plans in Miami-Dade.

Despite the ban on enrolling and marketing, current HealthSpring members can stay in the plan and continue to receive services at seven Leon Medical Centers, which are owned and operated by the founding Leon family.

“If the sanctions on Cigna are not lifted by the time that the Open Enrollment period begins, this would only affect new patients wishing to enroll into the HealthSpring of Florida Medicare Advantage plan,” Benjamin Leon, Jr., chairman and founder of Leon Medical Centers, said in a written statement.

He added that “Leon Medical Centers’ patients will not be affected at all.”

Prior to its acquisition by Cigna in 2011, HealthSpring had bought Leon Medical Centers Health Plans from the Leon family for $400 million in 2007.

Daniel Chang: 305-376-2012, @dchangmiami